Magical Bearded Gnome Declares Reaganomics Dead
Robert Reich, Magical Bearded Gnome and former Clinton Administration Secretary of Labor, declared on the Marketplace Morning Report today that Reaganomics is dead. It has, apparently, been supplanted by Obamanomics. Magical Bearded Gnome Reich is crafty with his use of statistics, but the Tired Donkey urges you not to be fooled. Magical Bearded Gnome Reich uses two faulty assertions as his central thesis: (1) that the Reagan tax cuts of 1987 began a period of relative wealth transfer to the already-wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class, and (2) that deregulation is bad. The Tired Donkey disagrees with both, and he will now explain why; what he is about to tell you will make some of you mad. Too bad.
President Reagan’s policies which both flattened the tax code and championed deregulation were proper and ushered in a long era of prosperity. Unfortunately, the people who championed Reagan’s ideas after he was gone were idiots, and—as idiots often do—they carried things too far. There was too much regulation in the 1970s. The Tired Donkey can’t even locate a Stockholm Donkey who argues otherwise. The problem came later when dim-witted Republicans began arguing that constant deregulation is a good thing, an idea so dumb that only people running for elective office could champion it. Allow the Tired Donkey to state the obvious for a moment: too much regulation is bad and so is too little. That is a piece of why we are in the mess we are in right now. But there is another piece to this puzzle, and the Tired Donkey will now return to the tax question.
You may find yourself asking, “Tired Donkey, if Magical Bearded Gnome Reich is wrong, what did cause the wealth transfer and the terrible economic state we are in right now?” Here is the answer: changes in the treatment of capital gains. As you can see at the link, in 1997—during the Clinton administration—the capital gains tax rate changed dramatically. Prior to 1997, capital gains were taxed as about the same rate as other income; after 1997—particularly for donkeys who made enough that most of their income was taxed at the highest marginal rate—the gap between long term capital gains taxes and the highest marginal tax rate was as high at 19.6%.
Now donkeys are not idiots, at least not most of them. So what did they do? They began shifting all the income-making activity they could into the stock market. And they were willing to take big risks to do it because a 19.6% tax gap can cover a lot of risk. This activity led to (1) the wealthiest of donkeys being taxed at rates much lower than the less well-healed donkeys; (2) the incredible stock runs of the past ten years; and (3) the long-term trend of the rich donkeys getting richer (which—were it not caused by stupid tax polices that messed up the country—would be fine with the Tired Donkey). And so—at the risk of alienating his readers—the Tired Donkey will once again state the obvious: a tax incentive to take obscene risks in the stock market combined with deregulatory zeal beyond all reason will lead to disaster. So here we are. And here is what is going to make you mad: the Tired Donkey declares that capital gains taxes need to be raised at the same time as the Freeloaders begin contributing to this country again. Don’t like it? Send the Tired Donkey an email; there’s a link at the bottom of the page.